Having been a contractor for most of my adult life, I’ve found it useful to have a few cordless tools with me.
You never know when a surprise might turn up when working. If I’m not equipped to handle those circumstances, I lose money by going back to my shop to get the correct tools.
It also means I have an unhappy client on my hands.
I tow a trailer behind my truck to ensure I’ve got everything I need at each project, but my business wasn’t always that structured. I spent days packing up tools in my car to do handyman or restoration work. Even then, I found that having a few essential cordless tools next to me in the front seat was crucial for maximizing profits and client happiness.
These are the tools that I still bring to each job. If you have them available for your work, you’ll find life is much easier to manage.
Essential Power Tools for Contractors
I think we all get into contracting because we love to make or fix things. Using power tools is just one of those perks of the job!
I’m particular to air-powered tools because of their versatility and consistency. You don’t need to worry about a battery wearing out halfway through the job or slicing through your power cord.
Almost every power tool has a corded, cordless, and pneumatic option from which to choose. If you select the latter, you have the compressor that must come along to get the job done.
I really like using this six-gallon pancake compressor for my work.
What power tools do I bring to each project? That list is too long to manage. I’m never without my cordless drill, circular saw, hammer drill, reciprocating saw, and impact drivers.
Depending on the project, I’m using a power nailer or stapler, orbital sander, jigsaw, or angle grinder.
The cordless drill is by far the most useful tool. I highly recommend that you purchase the best one you can afford. It provides so many functions with its various bits that you can’t leave home without it!
I should also mention that I never leave home without an entire set of wrenches, ratchets, and sockets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out a wall or started on a roof and needed these items because the power tools were too large to fit in the working area.
The Best Cordless Tools for Contractors
During the Great Recession days of 2008-2009, many contractors (myself included) transitioned from new construction to foreclosure restoration. It was one of the most challenging times in my career.
We went from making something new and modern for people to love repairing homes that people had to abandon.
I had a project in Colorado where the foreclosure involved a home that the family built. On the concrete porch were the handprints and pawprints of everyone with their names. It’s an excellent reminder to treasure what you have now because tomorrow can provide something unpleasant and heartbreaking.
What I learned from my foreclosure restoration days was that you had to depend on yourself alone as a contractor. There was no power or assistance. You relied on your wits, organization, and skill.
That’s why I highly recommend investing in a portable generator. Although cordless tools don’t need a power source, you need to charge those batteries to keep working!
After that investment, I highly recommend investing in these tools first to maximize your productivity.
1. Cordless Drill
Nothing is more versatile than a cordless drill. Depending on the model you prefer, it can be a power screwdriver, impact driver, pilot hole maker, cabinetry installer, and much more.
Dewalt DCD771C2 – Click to See Price
I wouldn’t be as effective at what I do without using this tool. With that said, quality matters when selecting a cordless drill. If you purchase an entry-level product, your results have a higher risk of appearing amateurish.
I recommend starting here with your investment capital. Buy the best one possible, and then be more selective about the rest of the tools you stock for each project.
2. Hammer Drills
I love having this tool for those times when you need fast drilling action without putting in the sweat equity. When you’re going into brick or concrete, there’s nothing better to use!
Dewalt Max XR Hammer Drill – See Price
I feel that it’s crucial to mention getting diamond-tipped bits for this tool. I know there are lots of carbide fans out there, but I’ve found more consistency with the former option.
3. Impact Driver
Those times when you need massive torque are perfect for this tool. You don’t need it all of the time, but nothing beats the rotating mass that stores energy to produce tremendous results with individual twists.
Model: Makita XDT131 – See Price
This cordless tool comes in several sizes and torque options. I like to keep what I call a small, medium, and large choice in the trailer to tackle whatever might come up in a project.
4. Circular Saw
If you can’t be at a table saw, bring a circular saw to your project. You’ll get to make the same cuts when you have appropriate spacing and bracing available. Since the cutter is right there with you, the client saves on labor expenses because there’s less movement between cuts.
Photo: SKIL 20V Cordless Saw – See Price
Some circular saws are mountable, providing even more versatility.
What makes this cordless tool stand out for me is its flexibility with your blade inventory. You can make rips, cross-cuts, combo edges, miter angles, and even metal slicing with the correct items.
Even when you have an above-average kerf, the consistency you receive with a circular saw makes it an essential tool.
5. Reciprocating Saw
I know many contractors who live and die by their reciprocating saw. Although it’s highly versatile, I’ve never been a fan of this tool myself. It produces rough cuts that don’t feature well in the work I do.
If you’re doing demolition, I can see the usefulness of this cordless tool. When you’re doing installation work as I do, it’s not as useful.
6. Biscuit Joiner
Every list should have a surprise on it. Here’s mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to join wood together on a project. When you need a world-class joint for your project, I prefer the biscuit.
If you’re working on a wall or subfloor that needs reinforcement, this cordless tool lets you join fiberboard, plywood, or particleboard efficiently. Instead of using butt joints and epoxy, you can create something that’s almost as strong as a tenon and mortise joint.
It helps to get a biscuit joiner with an adjustable fence to set your angles correctly. It’ll take some practice to get it right, but I think you’ll find the benefits it offers are worth the investment.
7. Angle Grinder
I was installing stone steps in 2011 when I broke out my angle grinder to shave down an edge. The client looked at me and said, “Isn’t that tool supposed to be used for metal?”
The versatility of this tool is severely underrated. When you need to remove excess materials, this option is one of your first and best choices.
Image: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Angle Grinder – See Price
Although it takes a well-practiced hand to get finishing results, you’ll have the power to tackle any project with this cordless tool by your side. Most models let you attach discs that let you accomplish these tasks if you need to do polishing or sanding.
8. Orbital Sander
I have a fondness for this cordless tool. Although a six-inch sanding surface takes more time to finish projects than a belt-style model, I prefer the control you get with this option. Instead of hand-sanding a fine-grit product to finish stairs, trim, or other carpentry, I can attack it with this option.
I’ve even restored old wood garage doors with an orbital sander because anything else would have been too powerful.
9. Moisture Meter
I like keeping this tool around if I have a client who wants a kitchen or bathroom estimate. By seeing if the seals around the sinks, toilets, and tubs are healthy, I can provide a more reliable estimate.
Model: Klein ET140 – Click to See Price
It’s also useful to have this tool for checking gutters and drainage systems. Although peeling paint and cracking wood can indicate moisture problems, you can show a client the reading to prove something terrible is happening to their home.
I know some people might disagree with this tool’s inclusion, but I must go back to those foreclosure restoration days once again. When you need to clear items away quickly, this tool doesn’t let anything get in the way.
I’ve been in houses built around trees. I’ve seen branches grow into a roof. There are times when you have no other choice but to clear stuff away. Having this tool in the trailer ensures I can keep going.
What Cordless Tools Do You Prefer?
I know every list is subjective. The stuff I like isn’t what everyone else prefers.
We could argue about the value of each tool on this list. I agree that not all power tools need to be cordless. In fact, in many cases, corded tools offer better performance. What I’m more interested in seeing is what you prefer with your jobs. Each perspective we hear from fellow contractors, DIYers, and others allows us to be better at what we do.
What cordless tools do you prefer to use most often?
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